They shall not grow old

Today is Veteran’s Day in the U.S. and Remembrance Day in the UK. I don’t recall what other countries call it, but I believe the observance is nearly worldwide.

This morning I will march in a parade in my band’s hometown of Bountiful. I think I have inherited my grandfather’s attachment to this observance. At least as it is marked in Europe, although military people are much in evidence, the day is not a celebration of the military, but rather a day to remember the awful cost of war. The military is rightfully included because they were the instruments of a war that killed millions in Europe – mostly needlessly. But that seems to be the case with war most of the time.

The observance (I hesitate to call it a holiday) got started after the Great War, or World War I. I have a connection to this because my crazy great great uncle – R.A. Scott Macfie – joined the Liverpool Scottish Regiment and went to fight in the trenches. He kept meticulous diaries of the horrors he saw and many of them are now permanently housed in the Imperial War Museum in London. In that war many pipers in the highland regiments of the British Army died marching, unarmed, towards German lines. They would strike up a tune and set off. Most were shot in less than a minute.

Years later my grandfather joined the British Navy to fight Hitler’s Germany. My grandfather was always very serious about Remembrance Day. I think he was right. War is serious business. It kills people, and leaves non-fighters bereaved. On Remembrance Day we should remember those who died, and promise ourselves that we will learn the lessons of the wars already fought.

They shall not grow old as we who are left grow old
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the Sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.

Laurence Binyon
For the Fallen (1914)

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